By Eileen Ihemadu.
It is a common belief in many Nigeria tribes even in most west African countries that is it necessary to appreciate the gods by performing some ceremonial sacrifices before the indigenes can commence the eating of new yam.
Recently, Onitsha indigenes resident in Abuja celebrated Iwa ji, otherwise called New Yam Festival.
The New Yam Festival of the Igbo people(popularly called Iwa ji, Iri ji or Ike ji, by the Igbo local depending on dialect or Ijesu by the Yorubas) is an annual cultural festival in Nigeria by various tribes between late June and early September to mark the harvesting of yam.
To many, this symbolizes the end of yam harvesting.
It can be safe to say in Nigeria, this is one of the major common ceremony practised among agrarian or yam farming community.
In many tribe, yam festival is second to Christmas celebration. Many travel long distance to the various villages for the celebration, while some strict adherence to culture will never taste new yam even in the cities until the rituals are performed as it is compulsory for them to observe the ceremonial rituals wherever they are based.
In many communities, the ceremony is observed with cooking of specialised herb soups or new palm oil as a way of warding off any poisonous effects of the new yam.
To the Igbos of Onitsha extraction based in Abuja, the festival was a way to teach their children born in the FCT the culture of their fore fathers.
The Priest, Ozunma Patrick Ogechukwu, who according to culture must perform the rituals with the roasted new yam before any other indigene could eat, said replicating the feast in Abuja will help enlighten Onitsha indigenes born in Abuja the procedures or what Iwa ji entails.
Speaking with journalists before commencing the rituals, the Priest said: “We are here as Onitsha Improvement Union, Abuja chapter to celebrate Iwa ji,
He said though the feast has been celebrated in Onitsha, but it is being replicated in Abuja to teach the Igbos of Onitsha extraction this very important culture.
According to him: “Most Igbos born outside Onitsha don’t know the procedures or what Iwa ji entails. They don’t know anything about Iwa ji, so the executives of Onitsha Improvement Union, agreed that it is best to organise Iwa ji in Abuja so that the people in Abuja will know the modus operandi, what it entails and the essence of Iwa ji, or what brought about Iwa ji.